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Captain Hook and crew lead NLEX past Ginebra

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Owing much to the composure of their veterans and their opponents’ turnover troubles, the NLEX Road Warriors go home tonight with their second W, after a 97-81 victory over Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, Wednesday night at the Araneta Coliseum.

The first three quarters saw a tight duel between the two squads, but a series of costly turnovers and a lack of defensive adjustability from Ginebra paved the way for a fourth quarter trampling from NLEX.

“Captain Hook” Mac-mac Cardona, displaying an impressive return to form, had 22 points and 6 rebounds for the Road Warriors.

The first quarter opened to a tight exchange of baskets between the two squads, but NLEX would soon manage to control the pace of the game thanks to Mac Cardona and Aldrech Ramos. A three-pointer from Ginebra veteran Jay-jay Helterbrand forced an 18-all deadlock late in the quarter, and a last second floater from another Ginebra old-timer, Mark Caguioa, gave Ginebra the 20-18 edge at the end of the first quarter.

Ginebra would continue to pull away in the opening minutes of the second quarter, with Caguioa and Japeth Aguilar collaborating to build a 24-18 lead in the first two minutes. It was rookie Juneric Baloric however who would hold the fort for the Road Warrior, scoring six points off the bench to steal back the lead for NLEX, 26-24, halfway through the quarter. Answering for Ginebra was Japeth Aguilar, who exploded for a series of dunks that gave Ginebra the 31-26 edge. After another trade of runs between the two squads, the first half would end with the score tied up at 34-34.

The second half opened to a thrilling trade of baskets between Ginebra and NLEX, with neither team pulling away from each other despite numerous lead changes and deadlocks. Leading the charge for NLEX was the duo of Mac-mac Cardona and Jonas Villanueva, while Ginebra answered back with a much more distributed scoring effort. A nine-point explosion from Chris Ellis late in the quarter pushed Ginebra to the driver’s seat, who would close out the quarter with the 66-62 edge.

Things would take a massive turn at the start of the fourth quarter, with the rookie Baloria and old-timer KG Canaleta rallying to steal back the lead for NLEX, 72-71, scoring from a series of turnovers from Ginebra. Later, a triple from Jonas Villanueva completed the 19-3 for the Road Warriors, putting NLEX up 81-72, with six minutes left on the clock. Ginebra would remain unable to put an end to the bleeding, and the remainder of the quarter saw the Road Warriors scoring on every Ginebra error. The Road Warriors would later walk away with the 97-81 victory, dealing the Ginebra their first loss of the conference.

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